Saturday, October 05, 2013

I think I might have found my favorite Justice League.

In the last few years, I've read the first three collections of the Geoff Johns-written Justice League comic, drawn by various artists. I've read the first collected volume of Dan Jurgens' Justice League International. I read the first issues of Justice League Dark and Justice League of America, plus those handful of issues that were part of the "Trinity War" crossover story.

But I think my favorite Justice League comic in recent years may just be that in the new Batman Beyond Universe comic, a split-book that features a Batman Beyond story by Kyle Higgins and Thony Silas (the latter of whom's work was so Breyfogle-y that I had to double-check to make sure Breyfogle wasn't doing breakdowns or lay-outs for the story) and a Justice League story by Christos Gage and Iban Coello.

The Justice League story takes place in the same setting as Batman Beyond, a few decades into the future, when Bruce Wayne is still alive, but way too old to be dressing up as a Bat and fighting crime personally.

The line-up is built on the core one introduced in the Batman Beyond cartoon series: Barda, straight from Jack Kirby's original Mister Miracle comic, wearing the outfit he designed for her when she wasn't wearing her pangolin-like armor; Warhawk, a more aggressive, hard-headed version of Hawkman (a characterization that the "real" Hawkman has drifted towards and even surpassed in recent years) whom is apparently the son of Green Lantern John Stewart and Hawkgirl Shayera Hol; Aquagirl, a white-haired young woman who is apparently Aquaman's daughter with Mera (although she looks more like Dolphin); Green Lantern Kai Ro (a little Asian boy and the current GL of Sector 2814); and Superman, still alive and as strong as ever,  although wearing a new costume (one that looks based on the John Byrne version of Krypton, made TV animation friendly), graying at the temples and going under the new secret identity of fireman Kal Kent, after the death of his wife Lois Lane.

Oh, and Batman II Terry McGinnis, of course.

The line-up has since been expanded to include Micron, a shrinking-and-growing superhero whose costume looks like that of The Atom spliced with Spider-Man's; Mr. Miracle, Barda's husband; The Flash, who is now a black woman with a different costume and whom I know pretty much nothing about; and Captain Marvel, who is the original version in name, costume, powers and personality.

Ex-Batman Bruce Wayne is apparently just a holographic communique away, and the Wizard Shazam even appears a couple of times to lend a hand in a couple of very different situations in Batman Beyond Universe #2.

So between Superman, Captain Marvel, Barda and Mirster Miracle, this League has four original League members who are barely changed from their pre-New 52 conceptions; Superman's costume is very different, as is his secret ID, but his personality and characterization seem much more like that of "our" Superman than of the new Superman.

I found the plot of the first issue of the new series to be sort of generic, as Superman's powers start acting wildly out of control, suddenly fluctuating to increase his powers to dangerous levels at unexpected (and often inconvenient) moments. They temporarily solve the problem by taking away Sueprmans' powers, which lead to the cliffhanger ending: Remember, now he's not hiding his super-powers beneath the identity of a mild-mannered reporter, but that of a firefighter, a profession in which being invincible would naturally come in handy every once in a while.

In the second installment, Gage continues with this plot, gradually revealing the identity of a villain responsible for getting Superman into this particular predicament, but much of the attention falls on a conflict Kal has no idea how to go about addressing, and his teammates efforts to help him:
His co-worker Rita has asked him to ask her out, and he's a bit out of practice, as he hasn't gone on a date since the good old days, when glasses had frames that held them to your face, rather than these weird Beyond glasses that apparently just stick to the bridge of your nose or something.

He asks each member of his team in turn for advice, and it is all, naturally enough, bad, but it's generally funny, and Gage is clever enough to root the humor in the contrast of characters, so each little scene, some as short as a single panel, go a ways toward defining Superman and the character he's talking to, from Warhawk, Green Lantern and Aquagirl's predictably impractical advice to Wayne's "Dating advice. You must be joking. Wayne out."
Is "shway" future slang? Man, I hate future slang. I think I hate that piece of future slang more than most future slang, though.

What say you, Mr. and Mrs. Free?

And how about the guys on the Rock of Eternity?
Ancient wizard and his mystically-empowered, human super-champion...what's so hard to wrap one's head around with these guys? I honestly don't get the attempts to revamp the "Shazam" franchise; playing them straight, as Gage does here, seems to work just fine.

Not that Gage does it all by himself. Here's another small detail, but a neat one, which artist Coello pulls off. Check out Cap in the Fortress of Solitude:

Kal goes on his date and, naturally, a villain attacks him with a super-weapon, reveling that the villain in question (who isn't named until the last, cliffhanger panel) both knows Superman's secret identity and has a connection to Krypton of some sort. Here we get to see the Leagures doing super-stuff:
I've only read about 40 pages of this League, of course, so perhaps I'll grow to be less enthusiastic about it, but, unlike all those other League comics I mentioned above, I liked this one from page one, rather than being repelled by it immediately.

In addition to the sharp writing and clear, communicative artwork, this Justice League comic seems the most comfortable, familiar, genuine and nostalgic of all the others. Which is kind of weird, when you consider this one is the out-of-continuity League set in a possible near-future, rather than a canonical one set in the present DC Universe.

Anyway: Gage and Coello's League half of Batman Beyond Universe? It's good and I like it.


Jeff McGinley said...

As I've given up completely on the Nu52, this universe has become the "real one" for me. Especially when Bryfogle drew Batman Beyond, making Bruce Wayne look like he did in the Batman comics I have large stacks of.

Schway comes right out of the Batman Beyond series. Its best use was in "Out of the Past" which has Talia in it, and I won't spoil anything else because if it isn't the best of the series, its in the top two.

bad wolf said...

How curious that DC would publish a Batman Beyond JLA as well as the upcoming JLA 3000. I mean, years of no alternative Leagues, and then two along at the same time.

Heck, they could have made an ongoing Earth-3 CSA, as long as they're publishing Red Lanterns and Earth-2.